Winning tenders: how to avoid the pitfalls and create winning tender documents.

  • Published on: 4 September 2019
  • By: Victoria Heritage

Tenders, in some markets are crucial. Crucial because the sector dictates that a formal tender process is mandatory for any goods and services over a set threshold (e.g. public sector/OJEU), and equally so in other private sectors that run a formal procurement process to ensure best practice and provide a fully auditable selection process.

In fact, in order to win that elusive five year deal it is inevitable that supplying organisations will at some point have to get involved in a SQs, PQQs, RFIs, RFPs, ITTs or tender type processes.

Yet the very word ‘tender’ can strike fear into the hearts of many. This article will look at some of the common pitfalls that you can avoid when approaching responding to a competitive tender and guide you in the right direction to stand a better chance of winning.

Most Heads of Procurement will evaluate tenders solely on the written response. A well-written proposal might not, by itself, win you the contract, however a poorly constructed and badly written proposal will undoubtedly put you out of contention. The key to writing a good tender is to understand the client’s requirements fully, be able to express how your organisation can meet those requirements using well written content and good visuals where appropriate and last but not least, allow yourself enough time to do it properly because costly mistakes are more likely to be made if everything is left to the last minute.

It is relatively easy to say what not to do when writing a tender: don’t just copy your sales bumf, don’t try to shoehorn ready-made answers into every question and not bother to answer the actual question, don’t be dull, mechanical and look too generic, we’ve all suffered reading badly ‘cut and paste’ responses!

Instead, try to answer the questions posed without a hard sell, weaving into the bid reasons why you actually want to do business with that organisation. Excellence is often rare when it comes to the quality of tender responses received by procurement, so investing the time and effort in getting it right is an opportunity not to be wasted.

Many organisations will find themselves in a reactive state when a tender comes through. Few companies can afford to have permanent proposal or tender support, output will be inconsistent and may be left to the sales team who are often not the best placed department to deal with these kind of response documents. Some organisations may think they are on the ball, having created a back-office function to churn out proposal after proposal, but chasing every opportunity using formulaic templates will result in low quality generic output and a low win rate.

The most effective and strategic stance to take is to have a centre of excellence, where professional staff can lead proposals and presentations, there is an end to end strategic process and the output is high quality and articulate. This will reduce risk, optimise your costs and maximise win rates.

Here are some top tips on how to increase your win rate of competitive tenders:

1. ​Go after tenders you can win

  • Qualification goes a long way – think ‘Do we want it?’ ‘Can we win it?’

2. Prepare yourself for success

  • If the decision is made to go ahead with a tender, it is now time for a robust pre-proposal planning process with all of those involved in implementation and delivery

3. Ensure you have sufficient capacity to deliver

  • Don’t go for contracts that you cannot actually deliver

4. Tell your story

  • Understand you’re USPs and what they really mean to that potential client
  • Great proposals articulate compelling stories. Think why it should be you and not the competition

5. Write the proposal professionally and persuasively

  • Use well-constructed sentences to get your message across and talk about benefits not features

6. Make it easy for your evaluators

  • Think about the structure, layout, graphics, and format
  • Use the opportunity to create good visuals to stand out from the crowd, but make sure that any imagery is good quality and high enough resolution for print copy – when printed, poor quality imagery will not look professional. Also ensure that your company imagery does not look too dated

7. Involve tender and proposal professionals

  • Tenders are too important to be left to the salesperson in the organisation. If there is no resource internally think about using a specialist tender consultancy who can provide expert advice and will cover all aspects of your tender

8. Train everyone involved in the process

  • Everyone involved in proposal development should have the necessary skills

9. Equip the team with the right tools

  • Identify what your team needs to succeed and invest in the necessary tools

10. Continuous improvement – learn from your mistakes and your successes

  • Take on board client comments and feedback, provide internal training and use benchmarking to create a successful, strategic tender process

Bid writing consultancies such as eXceeding can offer advice on all aspects of the tender process. With experts on hand to manage bid writing working to tight submission deadlines, their expertise covers bid planning and strategy, assistance in bid/no bid decision making, development and creation of written responses, bid libraries, templates and standards.

Tender Process – The eXceeding Way.


We have assisted both first time ‘tenderers’ and experienced organisations looking to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their bidding activity. As our customer testimonials demonstrate, we have consistently achieved our aim: to ensure the client gets the unbiased information and expertise to be able to select the right supplier and solution and the right price, ensuring a better outcome for you and your business, saving you time and money.

For more information on our tender services visit our Bid Tender Services page.

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